Wednesday, July 29, 2020

"Peaceful" protests

Adam Smith famously said that there's a lot of ruin in a country - that it takes a long time to wreck a nation - but he didn't have Twitter.  Sadly, we do.  But history shows what it looks like as the wheels come off, and the Roman Republic was instructive to the Founding Fathers so it it well worth while to look at that slow motion car wreck.  After all, our wreck might be in fast forward (depeche mode) with the help from Twitter.

The Founders intentionally fragmented power, with three branches of Government presumed to be antagonistic to each other and jealous of their powers.  This structure was a result of looking at the structure of the Roman Republic where there was little effective power fragmentation - the Senate granted near supreme power to the Consuls, thinking that since they granted the powers, they were in the driver's seat.  So how'd that turn out for them?

Veni, vidi, vici.  I came, I saw, I conquered. 
- Julius Caesar, the last of the Consuls and the first of the Emperors
But by Caesar's time, the Republic was dead in all but name.  It died at a particular point, when what everyone agreed were sacred Roman political lines - never to be crossed - were crossed.

The Romans called these lines Mos Maiorum, which is fiendishly hard to translate but sort of means "the way things should be done."  Once those lines were crossed it was Open Field running which would only be settled by someone who knew how to score a touchdown without spiking the ball.

Julius Caesar could not not spike the ball, and so was assassinated.  His nephew and heir Octavian could score - repeatedly - without feeling the need to spike the ball and so became the first Emperor.  In between them, there was a lot of bloodletting in Rome.  Octavian learned from all of the violence of his early days growing up in the end of the Republic; he became Caesar Augustus because he figured out how to gather power to himself while keeping the appearance of not gathering power to himself.  That only worked for him because everyone was really, really tired of the violence and murder that had come before.

That came from the collapse of Mos Maiorem.  Once that was gone, it was anything goes.  The Strong do what they can, the Weak do what they must.  Marius (Julius Caesar's Father-In-Law) posted proscription lists - lists of his opponents who were declared Enemies Of The State and who could be killed on sight.  The killers got to keep the proscribed's possessions.  As you'd imagine, a lot of false accusations led to a lot of folks being added to the Proscription Lists.

Marius' mortal enemy Sulla took that rule and did one better on Marius' supporters.  Even Caesar himself went into hiding as a reign of terror seized the Roman elite by the throat.  Fortunately for Marius he was dead, but the streets of the Eternal City ran red with blood.  Sulla wrote his own ferocious epitaph: No friend has ever served me, and no enemy has ever wronged me, whom I have not repaid in full.  Sulla was the Reckoning for Marius' supporters.

It feels like that's coming here.  It no longer feels like there is a common "us" that both sides recognize.  That's new in American politics.  It's like a line has been crossed; the Mos Maiorum of the early days are held now in contempt.  It's Winner Takes All; The Strong do what they can, the Weak do what they must.  If you get lumped in with The Weak then it sucks to be you.

And so record numbers of Americans find themselves as first time gun owners this year.  Millions of new gun owners - although it must be said that those are rookie numbers.  They'll be higher come the election.  It's a Bad Moon Rising, and no matter who wins the election that's going to accelerate.

Because Mos Maiorum is dead.  The losers in 2016 refused to accept the results of the voter's choice, and that looks fair to repeat when Donald Trump wins by an even bigger margin this coming November.  What is to be done, when rioting in the streets is the New Normal?

What was done in Rome?  Alas, we can read about this in the writings of Gaius Cornelius Tacitus (in the Agricola): 
Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium, atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.
To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire, and where they make a desert, they call it peace.
The Romans didn't screw around.

The Democrats aren't screwing around, either.  If you look at Portland, or Seattle, or Baltimore, or St. Louis - all you can think of is they've made it a desert and the Media is calling it "peaceful protest".  The American public looks on, and many realize this.

So where does this go, come November?  Donald Trump will win without doubt; the Republicans will also retake Congress (remember, 29 Democrats in House districts won by Trump voted to impeach; we shall see how that plays out in the election).

I've written before about Game Theory, a branch of mathematics that tells us much about human behavior.  In particular, Tit-For-Tat is a strategy where you play the opponent's last play against you.  If they cooperate with you, you cooperate with them.  If they oppose you, you oppose them.  Like I said, there are Mathematical proofs that show that this leads to a stable outcome.

That's not what we have today.  What we have is the Democratic Party and the professional Civil Service, and the Media and the Universities doing everything they can think of to overthrow the last election.  But respecting the election results is the Mos Maiorum of the American Republic.  That's gone.

And so Tit-For-Tat (and Cornelius Sulla) says there's a different way.  It's the Reckoning.

This is perhaps a better sense of how half the country is looking on the riots, from the same film:

A third of the country no longer wants Mos Maiorum - the way things have been done - rather, they want The Reckoning.  Another third of the country has already abandoned Mos Maiorum, grasping at any straw - including "peaceful" riots - to get rid of OrangeManBad.  The other third has yet to realize that come the Proscriptions, they will have to choose a side.

If you ever wondered how the Roman Republic turned into the Roman Empire, just open the newspaper.  It seems like the bloodletting has started; if so, it will not end until we have a later day Caesar Augustus who can end the bloodshed.

This Train Wreck would be known to the Founding Fathers, although they might have taken some satisfaction that they got two and a half centuries before the wreck of their plan.  But Twitter has pushed everything into fast forward.  The French call that depeche mode, which brings to mind the greatest cover of American Past ever recorded:

God save this Republic.


HMS Defiant said...

Brilliant. I never reach for the Romans since I used to find all that was needed to explain reality in Thucydides but that was masterful. Now I have to read the Romans that have been with me for over 30 years now and gone unread.

Glen Filthie said...

It looks like a serious power vacuum going on fro up here, BP.

You’re the historian... but from out here in the outhouse... it looks more to me like a Donk version of a beer hall putsch... but whadda I know... best of luck to ya fellas. I think some necks need to be stretched in your swamp, myself.

McChuck said...

The Republic is dead. It has been since before any of us were born. It's just been squirming like a cut snake.

The Left has been making war on America for a century now. The Right has finally noticed.

Always remember that Moderates always shoot right. They believe what they're told without question.

MrGarabaldi said...

Hey Borepatch;

You also put put into words, the same thing that I had read, that the donks refuse to accept the 2016 election from day 1 and have tried to overthrow it by soft coup using the state. I had read a letter written by a observant jew that called it "President Trump Never got his Honeymoon", and that succinctly put it into words what is going on. then you mention the same thing from a historical perspective. I have a gut feeling that Trump will win big and I will use the 1968 elections as a bell-weather because it was full of protest and the cities were burning but the silent majority went and elected a law an order candidate because the democratic candidate scared the crap out of them. I am pretty sure that the cities will continue to burn in 2020 when Trump wins because the rage will be worse. If by some fluke Biden wins, Kamala Harris already has said that the Trump supporters will be getting payback so expect retaliation and retribution.

Ominous Cowherd said...

The Leftists cannot, will not, live here, among us. So, they cannot live.

We will kill the lefties, or they will kill us. They won't stand for half measures.

Roy said...

I like your comparison to the demise of the Roman republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. It is apt. However, you don't need to go back that far in time for another apt comparison. Just look at the demise of the Wiemar republic and the rise of the Nazi empire.

Also, this is not the first time the Democrats refused to accept the results of a presidential election. That would be 1860.

Ed Bonderenka said...

I found it so hard to believe that the Congress would cede it's power to the Presidency under Obama.

McChuck said...

Ed - Why? Congress abandoned its power to the presidency in 1933.

LSP said...

Excellent post and of course we get "majority" from "maiores." As you write, the Democrats refused to accept that, and with it our polity, such as it is. So a fight's on the near horizon, I don't see a way around it.Let's pray it doesn't turn into a Sullan bloodbath.

Richard said...

This is why we need to separate before the bloodbath. We are not one country and continuing to believe we are will lead to very bad things.